BIRMINGHAM, UK (AFP) – Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho believes Manchester City’s two-season ban from the Champions League has opened the door for a host of teams to qualify for next season’s competition.
Mourinho’s men moved up to fifth in the Premier League — which could be enough to secure Champions League football should City’s appeal against the ban fail — thanks to Son Heung-min’s stoppage time winner to beat Aston Villa 3-2 on Sunday.
Spurs are also now just one point behind Mourinho’s old club Chelsea, who they face at Stamford Bridge next weekend.
However, all of the top 10 are now within six points of what could be a Champions League place.
“A window opens for many teams,” said Mourinho. “What seemed far, now the fifth place is not far. Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield United, Wolves. Everyone will feel they have the chance.”
Tottenham had to bounce back from a nightmare start at Villa Park when Toby Alderweireld sliced into his own goal.
Alderweireld had not travelled with his teammates to Birmingham after attending the birth of his son this week and admitted to feeling heavy legged after he turned Anwar El Ghazi’s deflected cross into his own net after just nine minutes.
But the Belgian quickly made amends at the other end by smashing a loose ball from a corner high past the helpless Pepe Reina to equalise.
“It wasn’t my best performance. It was a beautiful week for me with the birth of my son but yesterday I had to travel eight hours so it was difficult,” said Alderweireld.
“My legs were not sharp. But I’m happy to help the team with the goal, the lads helped me today.”
Villa could have been two in front before Tottenham levelled as only a goal-line block from Ben Davies denied Douglas Luiz.
However, Dean Smith’s side find themselves in a relegation battle as they have now conceded more goals than any other team in the league.
“They have a front four that can hurt anyone, that’s why we had to get forward and defend on the front foot,” said Smith, with Villa still just one point above the bottom three.
“On the whole I thought we dealt with them really well but we’re disappointed with the goals we conceded.”
A rash challenge by Bjorn Engels on Steven Bergwijn handed the visitors the chance to go in front just before the break, albeit it took a VAR review to award a penalty.
Son’s spot-kick was saved by Reina, but the South Korean followed up to prod home and become the first Asian player to score 50 Premier League goals.
Engels also made amends as an attacking force as he rose highest to head home Jack Grealish’s corner eight minutes into the second half, but Mourinho was furious at Alderweireld’s defending.
“I’d say he’s scored three goals: the own goal, his goal and then when he loses the duel with Engels,” added the Portuguese.
Tottenham took the game to the hosts in the final quarter, but struggled to find a way past the inspired Reina.
The on-loan AC Milan goalkeeper saved three efforts from Son and denied Dele Alli when one-on-one.
However, Son had the final say by composing himself to slot just beyond Reina’s reach with virtually the last action of the game and send Spurs closer to a fifth straight season of Champions League football.